Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Contest/Poll…PEI’s Ugliest Souvenir!

September 9, 2011

If any of you saw my Tweets from the past few days, you might have noticed that I posted a few pics of PEI “souvenirs” from my Labour Day weekend trip (for those not familiar, Prince Edward Island is Canada’s smallest province, and also home to my family’s summer cottage :)). My mother and I perused some area gift shops for a few hours (two of which I used to work at!), and had some fun mocking the truly ugly cr@p that some of them STILL peddle!

I wanted to give the chance to all of my readers to mock these wonderful pieces equally! Therefore, here are the 7 candidates in the order in which I saw them…

I’d love to hear my readers’ opinions on these special pieces- poll to follow! I’ll even award a prize (yet-to-be-determined) to the person who responds with the best comment  🙂

Private (napkin) dancer…in China???

March 14, 2011

I’ve posted before about how I got lost in Shanghai during my China trip in 2006; looking back at that event, it was one of the most memorable moments of the trip. I’m being completely, 100% honest when I say there was a panoply (how I love the English language!) of such events on this vacation; I definitely suggest to anyone traveling to China that it will be a vacation unlike any other you have experienced. Are the cities polluted and crowded? Yes, the large ones often are. Are you served strange dishes, such as whole fish complete with eyeballs? Yes, occasionally! Are tall, light-haired travel companions adored and photographed with the attention often granted to Brad Pitt? Yes, and it’s just as much amusing to the person’s friend than it is to the Beijing native who is photographing him!

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However, I digress; it would be much too difficult to cram every tale from China into one post, so I will recount one of my most favorite memories here. My travel companion and I were supposed to fly Saint John-Toronto-Beijing, go to the hotel and settle in, and then meet our tour group and journey to a restaurant for dinner. However, as often happens, our plans were waylaid; we DID fly from Saint John-Toronto, but we ended up having to then fly to Vancouver, spend the night, fly to Hong Kong, and purchase another ticket to Beijing (thank goodness for American Express!). As a result, two events occurred: a)there was no travel company rep to meet us at the Beijing airport because we were a day late, and b)we had to find our own transportation to the hotel. After an “interesting” ride in which the driver threw up his hands in frustration (because he didn’t know where our hotel was; thank goodness for cell phones!), we arrived at the Beijing Days Inn. Settled easily into our rooms and after freshening up, we called our tour guide and were instructed to take a cab to the restaurant, where the rest of our tour group was waiting, having spent the day touring Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City.

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The drive to the restaurant gave us our first glimpse of one of the world’s most densely-populated cities at dusk; a metropolis full of dusty, narrow alleys; vehicles of all sizes jostling for position on dust-choked roads, and shop windows resplendent with wares in bright yellows and reds. Once we got to the restaurant, we met our guide and the rest of the group, who had gotten there not long before. For reasons I do do not understand to this day, instead of adding two chairs to the table so that we could eat with our guide and the rest of the group, we were lead down a set of stairs and into a small room resembling a wine cellar with a single table in the middle. My travel companion and I looked at each other and smiled; what an interesting, albeit unusual, beginning to our vacation! Over the next hour or so, we were served a delicious Chinese dinner by young female waitresses in traditional Chinese clothing. They did not speak any English, so the majority of our interaction was body language and a few “Ums” and “Thank yous”.

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I believe it was toward dessert (I swear, EVERY night on that trip, dessert was watermelon!) that it started. Due to the language barrier, we really had no idea what would happen next after they took the dishes away after each course; was there more food coming? Something to cleanse our palates? This was totally new to both of us! Suddenly,without any warning whatsoever, a beautiful young Chinese woman walked into the room. I wish I had thought to take her picture, but it was SO dark in the room, the picture probably wouldn’t have turned out anyhow! She was dressed as you might imagine a performer would be in a Chinese opera; makeup professionally done, flowing garments, and ribbons in her hair. We looked at each other in total and complete bewilderment; this doesn’t happen at the local Chinese buffets. She proceeded to give us a very detailed, very artistic, dance, twirling napkins around as she flitted about the room, which was no more than 12×12. Now, my travel companion and I have been best friends since 5th grade, when an event in the classroom caused us to look at each other and burst into uncontrollable laughter. Perhaps it was jet lag, perhaps it was the “adventure” getting to our hotel from the airport, perhaps it was old memories…but whatever it was, it caused me to not be able to look at my friend until the dancer left the room.

This, as is evident by our laughter even to this day when we bring the event up, is one of the most memorable moments from our China adventure. I will say that there was nothing funny in the least about this girl’s performance; she was simply giving us the service that the rest of our travel companions had gotten in the main dining room. However, there is a big difference between 25 people and a large dining room and 2 people and a wine cellar! Hmmm, perhaps my hometown could use this type of joint…the tourists would love it!

Alway be prepared…

October 10, 2010

Recently, I received a link to this awesome blog via Twitter. The linked article was titled “Importance of Being PREPARED Before Traveling”, and I couldn’t have agreed more with what the author stated! Following is the response I wrote to the article, which was about a solo female American traveler who was up sh*t creek without a paddle, due to her lack of foresight in obtaining important travel documents:

“Wow…I don’t know what to say to this one! I agree with your statement that “This girl definitely gives female American travelers a bad name”, even though I’m Canadian! I’m sure, though, that there are people from EVERY country that make dumb mistakes like this.

To ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again in any of her future travels, I’d advise her to look up the official government site for any country to which she wishes to travel. Look up the passport, visa, and embassy information, in case you need to go to that embassy to take care of passport/visa problems (lost, stolen, incorrect visa, etc.). When I travel, I take a folder with (or copies of) the embassy addresses, phone numbers and any other contact information available, in case I encounter any problems. It sounds like she went into Guatemala COMPLETELY unprepared, and you know what? Often times, you can’t do anything to change those people. There are many different types of travelers, and “woefully unprepared”, to put it mildly, will always be one of them!

As to what I’d tell her NOW, in a short-term situation…get your behind to the American embassy! There is NO way I’d want to be in ANY country illegally, especially in one that I know nothing about, and where I don’t speak the language (shaking head; I always make sure that before I leave on a trip, I at least know the language basics for the country to which I’m traveling!). This girl in the article needs some serious help!”

I’m definitely not perfect, but I’ll put this out there to anyone who is thinking of going to a foreign country (especially the USA!); please, PLEASE check your documents before you depart. I have a friend who works for an airline, and he’s told me several stories about people who are flying round-trip from Y to Z, are allowed to fly to Z, but are denied boarding in Z to fly back to Y. Make sure you check the following items (***WARNING: do not take my words at face value! Call your embassy if you have ANY questions, no matter how small they may seem***):

Visas

-make sure they’re the correct type. For example, if you’re going on a European vacation and will be entering the same country two times or more (e.g. France->Italy->Switzerland->France), then you’ll need a multiple-entry visa. A single-entry visa will NOT suffice.

Passports

-make sure yours is valid for 6+ months from the day of your arrival (most countries I’ve traveled to have this requirement. I’m not exactly sure why!).

-I read a story in Condé Nast Traveler’s Ombudsman column recently where a couple (living in the USA, but she was born in Mexico) was going on a cruise leaving Florida and going to the Bahamas. The woman was ordered off the ship; she had a slew of documents with her, but not the required one: The passport from her country of birth, Mexico. Lesson learned: if you were not born in the country in which you are a citizen/naturalized/work, then check passport requirements for your destination.

This is only a tiny fraction of what is important to know when traveling, but in my opinion, having the correct visa and passport makes your trip a heck of a lot easier!


Things aren’t always as they seem…

August 16, 2010

In 2008, my best friend and I went on a Mexican Riviera cruise that left out of Long Beach, CA. We flew from Newark to LA together, but our trip started in two different destinations; I flew to Newark from Halifax, whereas he flew from Albany (and the saga of THAT flight is a totally different post altogether!).

Anyhow, our last port of call was Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We had spent the previous few days relaxing, walking along the beach, and taking things at our own pace. When we vacation, we enjoy doing excursions on our own, preferring to take taxis than tour buses. Well, we were enjoying a beach walk on a gorgeous afternoon when we walked by a resort that had dozens of tan, buff men in Speedos milling about. Since the beach was packed with tourists and resorts, this didn’t seem odd to me at the time.

When I got home and got my photos developed, I showed them to a few friends. It took a few comments for me to figure out WHY this resort was crowded with men…

I laughed it off. Hey, a cute guy is a cute guy! Plus, the beach was gorgeous. This shot shows how many resorts were along this stetch of the beach:

Ahhh…paradise! Hopefully I’ll have some new pictures of a tropical paradise come this winter  🙂

Waking Up in Vegas

June 24, 2010

I’ll start this off with this video; if you haven’t seen it yet, check it out! One of my favorites:

My traveling friend and I went to Vegas in March 2007. He has been there before, but I had not; hence, I had a built-in tour guide! We decided to stay 5 days mid-week, which was a good decision on 2 counts: 1)5 days is more than enough to “do” Vegas, and 2)hotel prices are MUCH better mid-week. We snagged an awesome room at the MGM-Grand for $65/night!

I was really looking forward to this trip. Like many people, I had heard a lot about Vegas; the above video has pretty much the stereotypical view. From my recollection, we spent Day1 touring the Strip; Day2 shopping; Day 3 on a trip to Red Rock Canyon; Day 4 shopping again, and Day 5 touring Fremont Street and the Strip. We we walked through countless casinos, including New York, New York; Paris; the Bellagio; the Mirage; and the Golden Nugget, to name a few. Want to know how much money I spent gambling?

$1. Yes, ONE DOLLAR. In Vegas, the gambling capital of the world. However, I spent considerably more than that shopping, and had to purchase an additional suitcase to carry my purchases home. My view is that if I’m going to throw money away, I’d better be assured of getting a 100% return on my money, and shopping fits that bill!

Next stop: Macau!

You can travel east, you can travel west…one of many travel memories :)

May 2, 2010

My best friend and I have traveled quite a bit together, and I’ve gone on several trips without him, too. I made a list in this post about the places I’ve been in the past few years (I think I might have omitted Mexico, where we took a cruise in 2008).

I’ve climbed the stairs to the Eiffel Tower, scaled the Great Wall of China, and circumnavigated the great Colosseum in Rome. I’ve seen Buckingham Palace, stayed in the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan, and ridden in Executive First class on a transatlantic flight (that Haagen Dazs and warm chocolate chip cookies were great!).  However, one of my greatest travel memories took place in a pub in Prague.

Some members of my tour group were up for a night on the town, and several of us ended up in the equivalent of a sports bar here at home. We were looking for a place to sit, and asked two young men if we could sit with them. I think the mix of female Aussie, Canadian and American accents finally convinced them! The two guys spoke English quite well, and we learned that they were bankers and had to work at 7:00 the next morning. A lot of miscellaneous chatter took place; I remember them saying that it was hard to believe one woman was 28! (I was 21 at the time :)).

Is there an exciting end to the story? Nope. Just the memory of sitting in a pub, with people my age, on a different continent is enough for me. The Eiffel Tower will (hopefully) always be there, but my days of sitting in a pub with a pint (or 2 or 3…) of beer at midnight are quickly coming to a close. Long live the simple things.

Lost in…Shanghai?

March 9, 2010

This is one of many of my favorite travel stories; I’ll share more of them eventually!

In 2006, a friend and I took a group tour to China, including stops in Beijing, Xi’an, Guilin and Shanghai. You might have heard of Shanghai’s Silk Market; it was the name we were given to denote a huge area of merchants selling everything from Rolexes to movies to Samsonite suitcases. Think of a laboratory rat maze, and you essentially have the layout of this market in your mind.

Following the golden rule of “always stick together”, my friend and I perused the many selections of the market until one of us had to use the restroom. We got separated, and in trying to find my way back to our tour bus, I wandered out of the wrong exit. Finding myself on the streets of Shanghai, with absolutely NO signs in English or anyone who spoke English in sight, I was getting desperate. It’s the only time in my life that I have been truly lost, and it wasn’t a good feeling! Finally, I remembered the card I had in my pocket that had the name of various tourist attractions written in  Chinese. I hailed a cab (yes, this girl from the Maritimes went out on the street corner of a city of 20 million and hailed a cab!) back to the silk market, and eventually met up with my friend.

Moral of the story: ALWAYS take a map with you when you’re in an unfamiliar area. It could have saved me a lot of stress and worry!